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Pierre Brassau, Monkey Artist, 1964
Female thieves hide money in their bras, 1950
Mencken's fake history of the bathtub, 1917
Tube of liquor hidden in prohibition-era boot, 1920s
Tourist Guy 9/11 Hoax, Sep 2001
The Stone-Age Tasaday Hoax, 1971
The Diaphote, a television hoax, 1880
Rachael Ray cooks her family and her dog
Vilcabamba, the town of very old people, 1978
The Great New York Zoo Escape Hoax, 1874
Wine Spectator Hoaxed
Osteria L’Intrepido, a restaurant in Milan, Italy, was recently awarded Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence for its wine list. Problem is, Osteria L'Intrepido doesn't exist. It was a hoax restaurant created by Robin Goldstein (author of The Wine Trials) which he created to test the validity of Wine Spectator's award program.

Goldstein's description of the hoax can be read here. Wine Spectator's response is here.

If you don't know much about Wine Spectator's award program (as I didn't) this article in the NY Times provides some good background. Basically, the awards have long been recognized as a bit of a joke within the restaurant industry. Almost everyone who sends in the $250 application fee along with a copy of their menu and wine list gets the award. It's the restaurant equivalent of getting a Brillante Weblog Premio Award.

However, most restaurant goers don't know that. (I didn't.) And they're likely to be impressed by seeing a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence plaque hanging on the wall. That's the whole idea. It's a marketing scheme masquerading as an award program.

For Wine Spectator and their awardees it was a cozy little arrangement. I'm sure they never figured that someone would pay the $250 application fee just to poop on the party. (Thanks to Joe Littrell and Cranky Media Guy)
Categories: Advertising, Food
Posted by The Curator on Fri Aug 22, 2008
Comments (9)
heh... I was aware of the Wine Spectator's program, but then my brother works in the restaurant industry.
Posted by Kevin  in  SF Bay Area  on  Fri Aug 22, 2008  at  01:49 AM
It's a lot like the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," which, as far as I can tell, means only that the product was advertised in Good Housekeeping Magazine. Parents Magazine used to (and may still) run a similar dodge.
Posted by Big Gary  in  Grapevine, Texas  on  Fri Aug 22, 2008  at  09:00 AM
No, wait! What's really funny is if you read Wine Spectators' response, they proudly proclaim:

"(Nearly one-third of new entries each year do not win awards.)"

Wow! How selective! It seems that winning an award from Wine Spectator is evidence of excellence in the way that a "Participant" ribbon is for elementary school sports.
Posted by Vitajex  on  Fri Aug 22, 2008  at  05:24 PM
"It seems that winning an award from Wine Spectator is evidence of excellence in the way that a 'Participant' ribbon is for elementary school sports."

Or competing in the Special Olympics.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Fri Aug 22, 2008  at  08:24 PM
Wine Spectator's response is hilarious. WS sounds like a clever but very peevish child caught with its hand in the cookie jar. One of the retorts is that the WS Award of Excellence is the magazine's lowest level of award (Doesn't "Excellence" mean there's nothing better, or do I need a new dictionary? Since when does "Excellent" mean "barely tolerable"?). WS also notes that many of the wines on the imaginary restaurant's list had received fairly high scores in the magazines reviews. Yes, wines like this one:
BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO
Posted by Big Gary  in  Grapevine, Texas  on  Sat Aug 23, 2008  at  09:47 PM
"To what, exactly, would Wine Spectator give a low score? Do you get a minimum 50 points just for the taster not going blind after a sip?"

They gave a score of 65 to paint thinner.

(To any Wine Spectator lawyers watching, THAT'S A JOKE!)
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Aug 24, 2008  at  03:05 AM
Although the Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence isn't worth much, what has Goldstein actually accomplished. All he has shown is that if you send them a list of wines they will look at it and possibly send you an 'award'. There's no fraud here that I can see.
Posted by Loren  on  Mon Aug 25, 2008  at  12:00 PM
Um, Loren, it may not be illegal, but for consumers it certainly can be misleading. After all, if the only info you have to go on when picking a resturant that has a decent wine selection is an accreditation, just passing them out to anybody that pays a fee kind of defeats its integrity, don'tcha think?

Hm, it gives me an idea... Why not set up an official looking website called, oh, "The International Center for Accredited Research", and for a simple fee, the center, IE me, will accredit research by any crank into Free energy, perpetual motion, UFOs, and anti-gravity. I'll even mail'em a neat looking certificate!
Next year I could be vacationing in the Bahamas!
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Mon Aug 25, 2008  at  06:50 PM
I worked for the Culinary Institute of America (who have a stake in Wine Spectator), and I can say, without any doubt, that the wine industry is full of absolute crap. Lots of money, lots of idiots.

Watch the movie "Mondovino" for a good look at the wine industry in Napa vs. European wineries.
Posted by Christopher Wing  in  San Francisco  on  Wed Aug 27, 2008  at  04:40 PM
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